Jabber Technology Helps AOL Open Up

Dennis Faas's picture

America Online (AOL) has broken its vows of proprietary ownership and will soon integrate open source Jabber protocols into its AIM and ICQ instant messaging services.

AOL is currently in the process of testing a new version of AIM, using the Jabber platform as a way to make improvements to its service and eliminate potential operating bugs. While the modifications are still in the test phase, supporters of open source software are looking forward to the potential benefits Jabber can provide. (Source: betanews.com)

Although Jabber is relatively well known within technical circles, most Internet users probably haven't heard of it. In general terms, Jabber is an open source version of popular instant messaging services like Microsoft's MSN or AOL's AIM. It's the same type of messaging system, but free from the advertisements and "terms of service" common to most commercial versions. Since Jabber is an open source technology and can be improved upon by its users, it is often described as "the Linux of instant messaging." (Source: jabber.org)

In more technical terms "Jabber" is the name applied to a group of open source web design protocols that combine to form the XMPP (or "extensible messaging and presence protocol") standard. The original technologies resulting in XMPP were created in 1998 by software developer Jeremie Miller, and have undergone several years of development in the Jabber community. (Source: xmpp.org)

AOL has been flirting with the open source community for several years, beginning with their release of AOL server software in 1999.  However, incorporating open source technology into the AIM client would have different implications for the Internet giant. (Source: news.com)

Jabber is unique because its servers are decentralized; just like email, any group or individual can operate an XMPP server and customize their messaging in a number of ways. This decentralization could result in a shift in the way users access AIM, and could pave the way for greater integration between AIM and other existing messaging systems.

AOL has been relatively quiet about their Jabber and AIM testing. According to Edward Aoki, Technology Fellow and Lead Architect for AOL Products, the Jabber and XMPP standards are only "one approach [they're] tinkering with," and in general AOL users shouldn't hold their breath waiting for rapid developments. (Source: florianjensen.com)

However, as the big Internet players continue to adopt open standards technology, its proponents have good reason to be optimistic about a more open and interesting online future.

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